The world’s first commercial spaceline announced a supersonic milestone following its successful test flight on Thursday. This should please the likes of Brad Pittt, Philippe Starck and others reportedly primed for a space trip with Virgin Galactic. Chris Page (9 Sep'13)

Thursday morning in Mojave, California saw the WhiteKnightTwo (WK2) carrier aircraft ascend to 46,000 feet carrying SpaceShip Two ( SS2), Virgin's passenger space vessel. The flight hit record altitude and speed, accomplishing success in all technical phases. The mission has affirmed the company's confidence in entering commercial service next year.

Virgin Galactic is jointly owned by Richard Branson’s Virgin Group and Abu Dhabi's aabar Investments PJS. The proud owners reported that SS2 achieved a maximum speed of Mach 1.43 with the ship propelled to 69,000 feet upon release from WK2. The flight also featured deployment of the unique wing “feathering” re-entry mechanism. SS2 finally landed in Mojave at 9.25 a.m. local time completing the flight test with pilots Mark Stucky and Clint Nichols reporting a flawless flight.

Chairman of aabar Investments PJS, H.E. Khadem Al Qubaisi, commented: “This flight milestone represents a key step forward for the Virgin Galactic team.  The successful completion of all major aspects of the flight mission demonstrates that we are very close to achieving one of Galactic’s key goals: commercialising access to space for the broader public.  I would like to congratulate the whole team on their continued success.”

“We couldn’t be more delighted to have another major supersonic milestone under our belts as we move toward a 2014 start of commercial service,” said Virgin Galactic Founder Sir Richard Branson. “It was particularly thrilling to see for the first time today the whole elegant system in action during a single flight, including the remarkable feathering re-entry system. It was this safety feature more than anything else that originally persuaded us that the overall design of the system was uniquely fit for purpose. Everything we have seen today just confirms that view. Congratulations to all involved!”

“Today, we expanded the SpaceShipTwo rocket-powered flight test envelope with a longer burn duration and robust testing of the feather mechanism, supersonic aerodynamics and wing lift structure,” said Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides. “Each powered flight of SpaceShipTwo yields cumulative progress that builds the foundation for safe and exciting commercial space flights.”




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